Date of this Version
Time to fish or cut bait with respect to a new farm bill. Six months ago, I would have bet on bait-cutting. Now, I’m not so sure. We just might go fishing before the year is over.
History is on the side of tardy completion of farm bills. In 1985 and 1990, bills were signed into law just days before the December 31 expiration of the old legislation. Then, in 1995, deliberations lagged even more. That year’s farm bill was not completed until April, 1996. (Subsequently, it has come to be known as the 1996--not the 1995--farm bill).
Current legislation does not expire until December, 2002. Thus, it would be quite a change from the recent pattern to have a new farm bill approved a full year ahead of time. Why is that even a possibility? Two responses seem appropriate. First, agricultural leaders in Congress concede that the current legislation is not working particularly well. This year will be the fourth straight year for late-season “emergency” payments to farmers. Critics say we should not start another crop year (2002) with an inadequate government safety net, taking a chance that supplemental payments will be approved.